By Eric on 2006-04-28

Ray Fongs got pulled! I’m sure a bunch of Asian groups will be happy. The only thing that could have helped is if we got to release the shoe. Oh well. Sayonara to the Fongs.

Adidas pulls back sneaker with caricature
Controversy – The company reconsiders and stops sales of the shoe Asian American groups found offensive
Friday, April 28, 2006

Adidas Group has reversed itself and agreed to immediately halt sales of a limited-edition sneaker that features a caricature some Asian American groups found offensive.

The Y1-Huf sneaker, designed by Barry McGee, a San Francisco graffiti artist, featured an Asian face with slanted eyes, buck teeth and a bowl haircut. The caricature is a design that McGee, who is half Asian, has used before and was meant as a representation of himself, he said in a statement released by Adidas.

The stereotypical image angered some who saw its use, divorced from the artist’s context, as offensive. Adidas initially refused to stop sales of the $250 sneaker, defending the artist’s work.

But after hearing complaints from several groups since the shoe went on sale April 1, the company changed its mind and said on Thursday that it will pull any remaining pairs, said Abby Guyer, a spokeswoman with Portland-based Adidas America, the North American headquarters for the German company.

“We’re an inclusive brand and we felt like we needed to respond to that,” she said. “We continue to stand by Barry’s vision and by his creativity and by his partnership with Huf (a retailer) in San Francisco.”

Most of the 1,000 sneakers that were for sale have probably been bought, she said. The company is assessing how many remain with the 12 retailers around the world selling the shoe.

She said Adidas’ “apology is for the offense that was caused and for the unfortunate misinterpretation of our intentions but we can’t apologize for the artwork that was created by an artist.”

Portland-area groups representing Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, and Chinese Americans were preparing to send a joint letter to complain about the sneaker. But the news that Adidas would no longer sell the shoe satisfied their concerns, said Stephen Ying, president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Portland.

Angie Chuang of The Oregonian contributed to this report.

Helen Jung: 503-294-7621;;